The Charlotte Hornets hope to use a favorable home schedule to make a run at the .500 mark when they take on the Miami Heat on Friday night to begin a stretch of six of seven at the Spectrum Center.
The Hornets (10-17) find themselves in a big hole in the early Eastern Conference playoff chase thanks in large part to a 2-11 road record to start the season.
They’ll have to deal with the road just once in the next two weeks, however, as they look to improve on an 8-6 home mark.
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Charlotte will do so initially against a Miami team that won’t have star center Hassan Whiteside, who will miss his eighth consecutive game due to a bruised left knee.
The Heat (13-14) also will be without second-leading rebounder Justise Winslow because of knee issues, putting them in a predicament with which they are quite familiar.
“I mean, we’ve dealt with it a lot last year,” noted guard Tyler Johnson, who sat out Wednesday’s home loss to Portland with a migraine. “Obviously, we’re going to miss those guys. We’d rather have them in the lineup. But for the guys who are here, it’s nothing new as far as playing shorthanded.”
The Hornets can relate. They recently lost key frontcourt backup Cody Zeller to knee surgery.
The rest of the bench crew did not respond well in Wednesday’s loss at Houston, combining for just 26 points.
“There was that one stretch where we really struggled,” Hornets interim coach Stephen Silas said of a 25-0 Rockets burst bridging the first and second quarters with mostly reserves on the court. “I think beyond that, we played pretty well.”
That’s often been the case with Kemba Walker or Dwight Howard on the floor, especially at home.
Walker was held to 19 and 13 points on Charlotte’s two-game trip that ended in Houston, after scorching the nets for 20-plus points four consecutive times on the Hornets’ last homestand.
Howard has been a terror regardless of the site in his last four games, recording three double-doubles while averaging 23.8 points and 14.3 rebounds.
The big guy catches a break Friday with Miami missing Whiteside. Rookie Bam Adebayo has been the chief replacement for the Heat’s star center.
Miami took advantage of Walker’s absence to beat the Hornets 105-100 at home earlier this month.
The Hornets made only five of their 20 3-point attempts in the game and were outscored 42-15 from beyond the arc.
Long-range shooting continues to be an issue for Charlotte. It ranks just 24th in the NBA in made 3’s (8.7 per game) and 3-point shooting percentage (34.9) this season.
The Heat’s Dion Waiters bombed in four 3-pointers among his 19 points in the earlier win.
Waiters is coming off a 17-point outing in the loss to Portland.
Already down 1-0, the Hornets have not won a season series from the Heat since the 2009-10 season. Miami has beaten Charlotte in 23 of the last 29 meetings.